Back to square one

After fourteen says of smooth sobriety sailing, I fell overboard into a sea of liquid enthusiasm. To be fair, I half-expected this to happen this weekend. I figured I’d cave the moment I stepped inside a liquor-serving establishment. Friday night was a minor offense—half a beer with dinner, followed by a Cream Soda at the house party and a Shirley Temple at the bar. I shrugged and figured I’d shave off a day or two from my tally. But yesterday? Yesterday I drank. I drank with purpose. Just after 11 AM, I opened a bottle of low-brow wine, poured it into a water bottle, and walked alongside my boyfriend for the two miles from my apartment to the CenturyLink stadium, stopping every third or fourth block to take a generous, gagging-gulp. It was like the beginning scene to a horror film—innocent enough, but inevitably setting the stage for disaster. Scene two: at the bar, I tipsily dismissed the $3 surcharge and removed two $20s from my ATM to buy shitty beer. Not beer to be enjoyed—beer to be downed quickly. Two canned ales and one plate of fried pickles later, we arrived at the Seahawks game, where I decided to shell out $15 on blue and green socks outside the stadium because “OMG, look! These will go perfectly with my boots and dress!” Cue: another beer inside, followed by taco truck food drenched in sour cream. I arrived home exhausted, tipsy, and guilty as heck. And wondering how I could soberly justify a $15 purchase of one pair of socks. (Answer: I can’t.)

So now I’m back here, staring at that big, bold ONE in the face, trying not to fixate on the fact that I screwed up big time. UGH.

But you guys? There was honestly NO WAY ON EARTH I could’ve mustered the energy to be around 60,000 screaming, intoxicated people. Truly. I would’ve been the worst: mopey, judgmental, resentful of all the normals able to casually drink. I could sense those feelings coming on as early as 9:00 AM in the grocery store when I made a quick trip for eggs and found dozens of folks stocking up for their tailgates. “WHY DO THEY GET TO HAVE MIMOSAS, BUT I CAN’T?” I thought. I was stompy, sad, and cynical when I returned home to make crepes. Knowing I’d be equally as bitter and eye-rolly within seconds of leaving for the game—risking souring the time for my beloved boyfriend—I decided to flick Jimminy Cricket off my shoulder and loosen up the only way I knew how—to be “happy and fun!” Bring on the beer! Pass on the vino!

And you know what? It worked.

I felt happy and high and giddy and carefree and had an amazing time. I didn’t shed a tear. I didn’t smack-talk or gossip. I stayed coherent and didn’t fall face-first down the bleachers. Overall, I wasn’t the shitty, intolerable drunk I’ve been so accustomed to being. I had some drinks, I had some laughs, and I came home in one piece and lived to tell the story. No harm, no foul, right?

…Wrong. I know it’s wrong. Today, I’m experiencing those all-too-familiar thoughts of dread and anxiety, albeit sans the self-loathing that usually accompanies a boozy night (or day) on the town. I can’t stop thinking that had I not gone to the game, I would’ve been enjoying a record SIXTEEN days today. Instead all I’m enjoying is a hangover and a less-plump pocketbook. (Those socks!)

Now, I can’t point fingers at anyone but myself, but I should mention that my boyfriend, while supportive, has taken the “do what’s best for you, but moderation is the key to life” approach to my declaration to kick my habit. That is to say that while he isn’t the one telling me to drink the wine, he’s certainly not telling me not to. I don’t know. Our relationship was birthed three years ago by way of multiple martinis, so my abstaining from Absolut is an adjustment for both of us. How do you live soberly with a significant other who enjoys letting loose with a few brews? Are things ever the same after one of you decides to quit? Or is it just plum impossible to take a solo journey to sobriety when your sig-oth is still sippin’ duds?

At any rate, those are my Monday, one-day musings. Once five o’clock rolls around, I have big plans to binge-eat a dozen cookies and bury myself beneath bubbles in a bath.

Hope everyone else is holding it together! ❤

House parties and football games

Earlier this week, when I was high on life and anticipating the weekend five long days in advance, I believe I said something like, “I know I can’t go to house parties or football games sober, but I sure as heck can dance.” Then I proceeded to visualize my boogie-woogie Friday night and how glamorous sober socializing could be.

Well, the jokes on me, my friends. One of my pals hurt his ankle playing soccer, so convincing a large group of friends to get their club on was an absolute no-go. I pouted a bit, but then I remembered that nearly a month ago, I’d committed to going to a friend’s housewarming gathering tonight. Then I pouted a lot.

Those in attendance are good people. I’ve worked with a handful of them, and I’ve gotten drinks with an even more select bunch. I like them. I enjoy their company. But the Facebook invite says there will be upwards of 40 folks in attendance, the grand majority of whom I won’t know, and that’s giving me deer-in-the-headlights anxiety. What will I do to prepare for all that small-talk?! On any other night, I’d down at least half a Bota Box as I curled my hair and powdered my face. But tonight? I ran to my laptop, swooped it up, and started typing like a madwoman. Oh, new friends in sobriety, how do I cope with my first real-brush with temptation since declaring myself sober 14 long days ago? There’s even going to be a keg. Oy vey.

But wait. There’s more.

After the gathering, we’ve committed to meeting friends “out” on the town. Out, as in, sitting in a sticky leather booth, panting inwardly and digging my nails into my thighs as everyone around me refills their pint glass with the numerous pitchers that are sure to litter the table. They’ll be on Cloud Nine as they relish in their inebriated bliss. I’ll be snacking on pub food so as to make good use of my mouth without talking. I knew this day would come, but I had no idea that it would come so soon. As for my drink at the bar? I’ve debated over going with Diet Coke with cherry, (“On the rocks! And make it snappy, will ya?!”), or “Is it possible to fill a champagne flute with ginger ale and add a lemon twist?” Yeah, I realize it sounds obnoxious, but there’s something about the stemware that seems really authentic to me. Maybe they could pour apple juice in a wine glass? In either case, I’ll be ordering something cheesy and delicious as a reward.

But wait. There’s still more.

When I got home from work yesterday, my boyfriend casually asked me if I had plans for Sunday. Considering Sundays typically consist of nursing a sizable hangover via veggie pho and a little hair of the dog, I told him I didn’t have any big plans as of yet. Casually, he pulled out two tickets to–you guessed it!–a football game. But not just any football game. The Seahawks v. Cowboys football game. You know, like the reigning Super Bowl champs, whose fans are renowned for their seismic-charting cries and rowdy behavior. He’d won them in a raffle of some type. He was grinning, his eyes a-glimmer like a child with two very large chocolate bars, eager to share. And how could I possibly turn down the opportunity to venture to the Century Link stadium, where those prize tickets are on the market for upwards of $300? I mean, I couldn’t. I have to go. We went to a pre-season game–my treat for his birthday–downed a few $9 beers (beforehand and during), and screamed our faces off. It was a red letter day. I didn’t know what was happening, but I followed the cue of the crowd: cheer when they cheer, boo when they boo, and sip when they sip. I absolutely loved it! But I was also plastered, like the rest of the 12th Man. Is it possible to enjoy watching a game I don’t understand around people who are seeing double without wanting to toss a few back? I have no idea. Tomorrow is going to be a challenge unlike those I’ve encountered so far. I can practically TASTE the pale ale and fandom from my couch. Unfortunately, ginger ale in a champy flute won’t make me feel any more like a part of the crowd during this event.

*Huge, heavy sigh*

All I wanted was to get my groove on to a little house music, but  instead, I’ve got three mega-huge tests of willpower staring me in the face. VERY FUNNY, UNIVERSE! Fingers crossed that I come out on the other end without resetting my day count.

FOURTEEN, my friends!


That boogie bug

Well, cyber world: I’ve done it. I’ve abstained from libations for the longest period of time since I can remember—9 days. NINE. Included in that timeline was one pub happy hour with my co-workers AND an out-of-town visit from my mother—both types of interaction which would’ve had me flagging down the waiter not too long ago. Now? I’ve just been slurpin’ down virgin Bloodies and good ol’ H2O. In this short stint of time away from the bottle, my body is reacting in subtle but positive ways. My skin is clearing up. I’ve lost 2 pounds. And despite the fact that I’m having gut-wrenching, anxiety-ridden nightmares practically every night, nearly all of my WAKING moments have been pleasant. I’m finding that communicating with others without a dose of liquid courage is not the fate-worse-than-death that I thought it once was. For the most part, it’s pretty pleasant. WHO’DA THUNK?

As I mentioned, my mother’s been visiting me from out of town, so I had an easy-out from serious temptation over this last weekend. But a weekend away from the outside world has me missing nightlife just a bit. Cocktails aside, there are a few things about “going out” that I’m really craving—that I’m almost certain I could enjoy without having to crack open a cold one. First: dressing up. Living in a grunge-oriented city like Seattle presents few opportunities to actually need to do my hair or get creative with my outfits, both of which I really love to do. Secondly: dancing. I’m a fiend for the dance floor, and I haven’t been on one for a while.

I can tell you what I can’t do sober—I can’t go to a house party where the only interaction between people are Solo cups and ping pong balls. I can’t go to a sporting event where I’m forced to feign allegiance to a team without a 20 oz. beer in my hand. BUT DANCING! Whereas I once thought that perhaps dancing would be impossible without a liquid layer to keep me going, I’m starting to think it’s one of the only things that will keep me feeling 26, despite my sobriety. All that boogyin’! All that soul-jivin’! I hop around and flail and jump around about in my apartment enough to know that I can be moved by music, with or without drinking. My only fear, however, is that by going to a nightclub where much of the energy is fueled by the thumping base, MDMA, and $13 vodka crans, I may actually be overtaken by my inability to enjoy myself without imbibing. I mean, in THEORY, all I see are neon lights, moving bodies, and a huge smile spread across my stark-sober face. In my vividly painted daydream about this, I’m surrounded by strangers and dancing my face off to nonstop electronic music in the typical PLUR-tradition. But in reality… is the nightclub environment really just a dressed up social anxiety attack waiting to happen?

It’s difficult to gauge the situation without putting myself in it, so I’ve decided to test my theory that I can dance without drinking by planning a night out on Friday. If temptation gets to be too strong, I can always leave, order a veggie street dog, and cab it back home. I can’t sit around hiding from folks with glasses in their hands forever, and with all this energy I have from NOT drinking, I need an outlet to burn it off. And guys… I REALLY love dancing.

Don’t worry!  I’ll order Red Bull-Red Bulls all night to keep my legs a-movin’, and I’ll report back.


Replacing the ritual

There’s a grocery store on my way home from work, and more often than not, I swing in for a last-minute something before heading back to my apartment. It’s usually something harmless—like bananas or bread—that triggers me to stop, but more often than not a 6-pack winds up on the conveyor belt along with my harmless something. (While I’m confessing, I should divulge that almost always scoop up a cheese block, too.) When I made my routine detour last night, I cruised past the produce and made a straight-shot to the back of the store. There before me stood the beer wall and all its magnificent, high-ABV glory. My eyes and mouth were wide open with temptation. In all honesty, I figured I’d beeline to the booze for a looksee, but I didn’t expect to hang out back there for 15 minutes while Googling things like, “Does drinking an O’Douls count when you’re trying to get sober?” It all just looked SO. DAMN. DELICIOUS. And I was fiending for a plausible substitute for my dinnertime ritual.

Most of the time, the grocery store is the last place my self-conscious side kicks in. No place before have I ever felt less concerned about rocking zero makeup, a greasy messy bun, and flip-flops on a semi-regular basis. (It’s important to note that exposing the innocent world to my bare feet is a big IDGAF move as I’m missing 4 toenails from running.) Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I routinely hang out at the grocery store looking like a hot mess, and I’ve never once cared about what my fellow shoppers thought of me… until last night. In the beer section. I was pacing. Actually, a more appropriate word for what I was doing is probably “loitering.” Hanging out conspicuously, acting shady as fuck, like some neighborhood street rat with a skateboard and a hoodie. I was convinced all the “Normals” could sense my desperation from three aisles away. “My LORD! Would you just look at that? That poor girl is just OOZING with addiction. Just look at her stand, trying to play it cool with her hand on her hip! Could she BE any more obvious? I mean HONESTLY.” I could hear their conversations WITH MY EYES.

I was absolutely frozen with indecision. Because the message boards I looked up during my shady loitering were split on the topic of non-alcoholic beer. Some were all for it—“It’s a great substitute and you don’t look like a ninny in front of your friends while you watch football.” Some were morally opposed—“Just think of the relapsing possibilities! What if one drop sends you back to the store for the high-octane stuff, and you wind up back at Square 1?” It was the worst. The WORST. Most of my biggest ADD moments have happened in grocery stores, and this was no exception. Usually I get overwhelmed when I can’t make a choice and leave without buying anything, which I almost did, but then I remembered another alternative—soft drinks.

The phrase “soft drinks” reminds me of paper menus and crayons, grilled cheese and Sprite, sipped from a Krazy Straw in a plastic cup. (Which, actually, sounds amazing. Note to self: buy Krazy Straws.) But what I mean to say is that since graduating to bevies that pack a punch, I haven’t given any thought to the assortment of other non-blackout inducing liquids that I could pair with my dinner. I stopped drinking soda because it’s the devil’s juice—the only exception to this rule being if there are no other suitable chasers for vodka shots—and juice is a reckless waste of calories. Most everything lo-cal is flavored with Splenda, which I’m also pretty sure is supposed to kill you, so what’s a girl to do? I tried tea, but I’m still becoming accustomed to the flavor of drinking hot earth flavored water. And as for just that—water? I already drink about 80 ounces a day. LEAST FUN RITUAL REPLACEMENT EVER.

With all this information in my back pocket, I wandered over to the “Soft Drink” aisle. I really wanted something in a bottle. Root beer seems reasonable enough, but I OD’d on A&W cans when I was a kid and haven’t been able to stomach the stuff ever since. Orange soda also comes in bottles, but all that artificial flavoring will turn your stomach and eyeballs rainbow colors, so that was out too. But then, there on the shelf of my spectacularly progressive Seattle grocery store I found the PERFECT alternative: DRY SODA.  It’s clear. It comes in beautiful bottles. It’s free of all unnatural garbage. It’s less sweet. And it packs ¼ of the calories of my typical Belgian Triple. It even had pairing suggestions on the back (“Try it with fish tacos!”), which made me feel less like I was forever sentenced to sitting at the kids’ table. DRY SODA, MY SAVIOR!

It wasn’t cheap—almost $6 for a 4-pack. But I bit the bullet and bought ‘em, because I wasn’t breaking any message board rules by doing so.

An hour later, after I served up dinner I cracked open two bottles—a home brew for my boyfriend, and a Dry Lime Soda for me—and we ate and drank them together. We chuckled and shared stories and asked questions and afterward, we took the dog for a walk. All I needed was a ritual replacement, and it seems I’ve found one. For now.

My world is right-side-up again.

Sober October… is a thing?

Today, I hopped online and read my WordPress stats, only to find that someone had found me through the search term “Sober October.” Huh, I thought. I mean, surely I’m not the first to string those two words together–it’s not that clever of a rhyme. But still, I had to know what else was out there, so I Googled the term for myself.

HOLY PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES, you guys! SOBER OCTOBER IS A REALLY BIG THING! As in, hundreds of thousands of other folks’ glasses will be empty for the next 31 days, too (although they’re raising money for cancer, and I’m just tryin’ to get control of my life…) I mean sure, these poor souls probably didn’t awaken from a gut-wrenching alcohol dream, brows dripping with sweat over imbibing subconsciously, but still. I’m in this with others, and misery loves company. There’s a global brigade of us who plan to abstain from all things hopped-up throughout the entire month, and I couldn’t be happier to hear it. Turns out my self-loathing inspired teetotaling was perfectly well-timed. So, shout-out to all you Sober October-ites out there! What’s that, you say? Crushing cancer and pumpkin things? Yeah, I could pretty much go for a goddamn pumpkin ale myself. Guess I’ll have to make do with eating two or three servings of leaf-shaped cookies.

So, here we are, Day 4, and it’s officially October. The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, and I’m not scratching at my neck or pressing my forehead against a liquor store storefront window, staring longingly at the Fireball while smacking my autumn-chapped lips. So far so good, I’d say! Well, I mean, for today. It’s only 2:30 PM, so I guess there’s still plenty of back-sliding that could happen.

Yesterday (Day 3) was not a cake walk. See, each night with dinner, my boyfriend and I usually crack open two beers (one for each of us–I feel I should specify), and proceed to sip it casually over dinner and table-talk. You might say it’s our nightly ritual, akin to walking the dog or a goodnight kiss right before flipping the lights. 99.9% of the time, we just have the one, and then we go about our evening business. The other 0.1% of the time, we may split a second one. We do not get drunk on these nightly rituals. I don’t have 12 ounces of Sam Adams and then grab a handle of Popav and start swinging from the chandelier. (Man, I wish I had a chandelier. I don’t even have an overhead light.) But since sobriety is my new end-goal, I’ve told myself: no more dinner beers. And because my boyfriend is wonderful and patient and kind, he abstained, too. So instead of enjoying our year-long ritual, we were just two quiet introverts drinking water and eating a meal in the presence of each other, the only audible noise between us being fork-on-plate scratches and fingertip-on-smart-phone vibration.

So that sucked, ya know? Like, what do we do with our hands ‘n stuff?

After a somewhat rushed dinner (ESCAPE THE SILENCE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!), I decided to open my mail, only to find $500+ worth of student loan and medical bills with looming due dates stuffed inside the envelopes. I mean, can we just talk about that number for a second? FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. College and the doctor’s office–two institutions offering what I’m certain is the worst ROI of all-time–demanding that I hand over all of my Hawaii plane ticket savings to what, honestly accrued debt?! “God DAMMIT!” I cried, trying to gulp buckets of air and channel my inner zen and all that stuff, but to no avail. On a normal night, I’d suggest opening another beer so I could help myself to an additional 6 oz. serving, but last night? All I could do was stand there and cry.

“Why aren’t you TALKING to me? What am I going to do with all these BILLS? Everything is SO HARD and nothing ever gets better. LIFE IS TOO OVERWHELMING AND I JUST WANT TO GO TO BED NOW.” Fun dialogue like that. The kind of words that evoke thoughts of holy matrimony and lifelong partnership, I’m certain of it.

Anyway, because my boyfriend is the best human being to ever grace this planet, he comforted me, consoled me, and tucked me into bed where I downsized my epic wails into witty bitty weeps before falling asleep. But I couldn’t help but think right before I dozed off, You know, ONE BEER could’ve totally taken the edge off and curtailed a lot of those theatrics. And then I fell asleep and dreamed about ordering an IPA. Not joking.

So, that was Day 3. I didn’t have the shakes, I didn’t hyperventilate, and I didn’t break down and drink a dinner beer, but dammit if I didn’t want to.

It gets better, right?

Can’t Remember September

Let’s kick off this sobriety party with an itty-bitty disclaimer: it’s actually September 29. The only word that rhymes with September is “remember,” which is exactly what my drinking prohibited during much of this month. So rather than “Can’t Remember September,” I figured I’d put a positive spin on the spiraling top that is my life and look ahead to the future: “Sober Since October.” There was even a frankenstein blog theme that I debated using, but ultimately decided against due to its all-too-cutesy use of the font Curlz in the title. I’m shooting for sober, not dismissive of typography.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 12.24.51 PM

But I digress.

It’s September 29, and I’ve been sober for all of 36 hours. The sobriety app on my phone gives me the benefit of the doubt and chalks it up to two whole days. It seems like a petty accomplishment–like creating a to-do list item for an action that’s already been done. But in those (nearly) two days, I’ve felt like I’ve ripped my heart, mind, soul, and liver out of my body, thrown them on the ground, and pranced around on them wearing my spikiest pair of stilettos. They’re deflated–all of ’em. There’s a lump the size of a large tangerine that’s attached itself to the back of my throat. There’s a sepia filter on everything I look at, preventing me from seeing anything vividly except the truth. I am a full-blown alcoholic, and it’s time to call it quits on the enabler that’s led me down all too many paths of temptation over the last ten years. It’s time to get sober.

“Getting sober” is one of those phrases that I’ve always inwardly rolled my eyes at. Not because of the action itself, but the phrasing just rubs me the wrong way. I dunno, something about it just sounds self-righteous. Or maybe euphemistic. I guess it just doesn’t seem like a strong enough phrase to define what will undoubtedly become the hardest battle of one’s clear-thinking life. It seems more on-point to say something like, “I no longer have to down a pint of 100-proof vodka in order to muster conversation with those I have little to nothing in common with.” Or “I haven’t flailed myself upon the bathroom floor and hyperventilated from an alcohol-induced anxiety attack for X number of days.” I mean, that’s really what getting sober is. It’s pushing yourself to the mental limit for the sake of you and everyone else around you. Or so I’ve read. I wouldn’t know yet… I’ve only been off the juice for 36 hours. (Actually, a Google search for “off the juice” indicates that I’ve misused that term. Don’t fear, friends, I’m not on steroids.)

In my short ten years spent as an alcoholic, the quality of my life has gone downhill faster than a Cedar Point rollercoaster. I’ve gone from being a straight-A student to a two-time college dropout. I’ve gone from being a medal-winning distance runner to gaining a 5-lb. IPA belly ring that I’ll never be rid of.  I’ve consumed more animal byproducts in the form of 3 AM burgers and Animal Style fries than most folks will eat in a lifetime. My skin is speckled with scars brought on by “too-sloshed-to-wash-my-face-tonight” adult acne. I’ve been pulled over for drinking and driving. I’ve lost meaningful friendships. I’ve damaged once-in-a-lifetime relationships. I’ve cried my body weight in tears. I’ve lost a decade of Saturdays and Sundays to hangovers of flu-like magnitude that, if experienced during a workday, would most certainly trigger me to make a doctor’s appointment. I’ve consumed a slew of neon pills and white powders, all to prolong the sweet disconnected feeling of suspended reality. Perhaps most terrifying, I’ve woken up to well-intentioned suicide notes and bottles of prescriptions that I thank God I didn’t have the courage to down in my inebriated stupor. In summation, I have a self-destructive streak that would’ve given Amy Winehouse a run for her money, and I’m starting to scare myself.

At the root of all of this chaos lies one core fact: I have a tendency to be pulled down toward the darkness, whether or not I’ve been drinking. I’ve struggled with varying degrees of anxiety and depression for years. Social situations send me into a spiral, so by sipping chardonnay, I can fend off the crippling sense of insecurity for a few hours until–huge sigh of relief!–it’s time to go home. And then, more often than not, in flood the tears. But as for my depression? It needs not a liquid encourager to rear its ugly head. It appears out of the blue, just to make a quick appearance and then lurk in the shadows until it can crawl out and do the most damage. Some days seem darker than others. I’m not sure why, but they do. Add a case of depressants into the mix, and the demons are unstoppable.

In the midst of all of these clouds, I’ve taken a fond interest in astrology. Now, granted, I strongly believe that my alcoholic tendencies stem my genetically unblessed beginnings (both bio momma and poppa have some dark demons and rap sheets of their own). But the idea that so many of our emotional makings are predetermined by the placements of the stars and planets at our moment of birth? Now, that I find interesting. That being said, I’m always looking to my Pisces sun/Cancer moon combination and, with a fist raised to the heavens above, damning my astrological chart for placing me so smack-dab in the middle of so much self-indulgent Neptunian influence. I also shake my head at my introversion, which makes opening up to others about as easy as opening a tightly-sealed pickle jar. As a creative person, and an introvert, and a Pisces, and a writer who has to have face-to-face contact with others nearly every single day, there should be little wonder that a pint seems so appealing after all is said and done. But, as an alcoholic, there should also be little wonder why I can rarely stop at one.

Is my inability to stop pouring drinks long after my words are slurred and my vision’s blurred utterly predetermined? Or is my alcoholism a product of my own creation–or should I say destruction? I can’t say for certain. I can only say that I have a problem, and I need help.

I started this blog because I’ve been bottling my darkness, my demons, and my heavy emotions inside for far too long. I began writing today with a the proclamation that YES! I want to get sober, but I need to be held accountable for this mega-huge decision. I need support. My greatest fears in “outing” myself are that my friends and family will A) chuckle and shake their heads, reassure me that I’m not really an alcoholic, and ask me to grab a quick Happy Hour drink this week, or B) clap their hands and utter, “FINALLY! What was the ultimate breaking point that made you turn this leaf?” Please, please don’t do either those two things.

I’m inviting you to walk along with me as I prepare my self-will to face temptation head-on. How can you support me? Please offer hugs, not judgment. Please provide guidance, not cynical remarks. I may fall down, but I will get back up.

Because everything I hold dear in life depends upon it.